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275 277 ib.
280 281 ib.
THE PLANTS OF INDIA.
BY THE PRESIDENT.
THE greatest, if not the only, obstacle to the progress of knowledge in these provinces, except in those branches of it, which belong immediately to our several professions, is our want of leisure for general researches ; and as ARCHIMEDES, who was happily master of his time, had not space enough to move the greatest weight with the smallest force, thus we, who have ample space for our inquiries, really want time for the pursuit of them.
" Give me a place to stand on, said the great mathematician, " and I will move the whole earth :" Give us time, we may say, for our investigations, and we will transfer to Europe all the sciences, arts, and literature of Asia. “ Not to have despair
ed,” however, was thought a degree of merit
in the Roman general, even though he was defeated ; and, having some hope, that others may occasionally find more leisure, than it will ever, at least in this country, be my lot to enjoy,
, I take the liberty to propose a work, from which very curious information, and possibly very solid advantage, may be derived.
Some hundreds of plants, which are yet imperfectly known to European botanists, and with the virtues of which they are wholly unacquainted, grow wild on the plains and in the forests of India : the Amarcosh, an excelsent vocabulary of the Sanscrit language, contains in one chapter the names of about three hundred medicinal vegetables; the Médinì may com
, prise many more ; and the Dravyábhidhána, or Dictionary of Natural Productions, includes, I believe, a far greater number; the properties of which are distinctly related in medical tracts of approved authority. Now the first step, in compiling a treatise on the plants of India, should be to write their true names in Roman letters, according to the most accurate orthography, and in Sanscrit preferably to any vulgar dialect ; because a learned language is fixed in books, while popular idioms are in constant fluctuation, and will not, perhaps, be understood a century hence by the inhabitants
a of these Indian territories, whom future botanists
may confult on the common appellations of trees and flowers: the childish denominations of plants from the perfons, who first described them, ought wholly to be rejected; for Champaca and Hinna feem to me not only more elegant, but far properer, defignations of an Indian and an Arabian plant, than Michelia and Lawfonia; nor can I fee without pain, that the great Swedish botanist considered it as the Supreme and only reward of labour in this part of natural history, to preserve a name by hanging it on a bloffom, and that he declared this mode of promoting and adorning botany, worthy of being continued with holy reverence, though so high an honour, he fays, ought to be conferred with chafte referve, and not prostituted for the purpose of conciliating the good will, or eternizing the memory, of any but his chofen followers; no, not even of faints: his lift of an hundred and fifty fuch names clearly fhows, that his excellent works are the true bafis of his juft celebrity, which would have been feebly supported by the stalk of the Linnea. From what proper name the Plantain is called Mufa, I do not know; but it seems to be the Dutch pronunciation of the Arabick word for that vegetable, and ought not, therefore, to have appeared in his lift, though, in my opinion, it is the only rational name in the mufter-roll. As to the
system of LINNÆUS, it is the fystem of Nature, subordinate indeed to the beautiful arrangement of natural orders, of which he has given a rough sketch, and which may hereafter, perhaps, be completed : but the distribution of vegetables into classes, according to the number, length, and position of the stamens and pistils, and of those classes into kinds and species, according to certain marks of discrimination, will ever be found the clearest and most convenient of methods, and should therefore be studiously observed in the work, which I now suggest; but I must be forgiven, if I propose to reject the Linnean appellations of the twenty-four classes, because, although they appear to be Greek, (and, if they really were so, that alone might be thought a fufficient objection) yet in truth they are not Greek, nor even formed by analogy to the language of Grecians; for Polygamos, Monandros, and the rest of that form, are both masculine and feminine ; Polyandria, in the abstract, never occurs, and Polyandrion means a publick cemitery ; diæcia and diæcus are not found in books of authority; nor, if they were, would they be derived from dis, but from dia, which would include the triæcia; let me add, that the twelfth and thirteenth classes are ill distinguished by their appellations, independently of other exceptions to them, since